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UniSA library shrinking as e-books take over

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The University of South Australia has significantly reduced its collection of physical books as they are overtaken by electronic volumes, making way for new teaching and learning spaces.

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The university now owns more than 500,000 electronic books (e-books) and digital journal articles – about 150,000 more than the number of physical books.

And if it has an electronic copy of a book, it almost always gets rid of its physical copy, a UniSA spokesperson told InDaily.

“We are constantly reducing our print holdings to make way for new and engaging teaching and learning spaces for students, including collaborative teaching spaces and more project rooms – which the students love,” she said.

“Our digital collection policy essentially means that if something is available in a digital format then we will acquire the digital format.

“We really now only acquire print if that is the only option.”

The university has not yet responded to questions about how many physical books it has given away over the past five years.

But the spokesperson said it had adopted an “e-preferred” digital collection policy in 2011 and had been giving away its “redundant” paper books for free – then recycling those left uncollected.

According to the university, digital book borrowings now “far outstrip print borrowings”.

The spokesperson said that while UniSA students borrowed physical books 300,000 times last year, the number was far outstripped by 1.8 million downloads from the university’s digital library portal.

Its collection of research journals is now “almost entirely electronic”.

The spokesperson said a survey showed 92 per cent of international students that attended the university were “either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with our online library”.

However, the city’s two other major universities have not matched UniSA’s digital replacement strategy.

Adelaide University has a “relatively small” holding of e-books, and its collection has not changed significantly over the past five years.

A spokesperson for the university told InDaily its “holding of e-books is still relatively small and in most cases we have both hard copy and e-versions available”.

“The university is always reviewing its physical collection, and has always done so.

“The overall book holdings have not changed significantly over the last five years.”

Flinders University has no formal policy to preference e-books over physical ones, but a spokesperson said there had been “a gradual move to electronic that has increased in the last two years”.

“E-books tend to meet the needs of a modern student and the feedback we get strongly points to a demand for more access to online resources.

“The downside is that publishers generally do not release textbooks in an e-format.

“This is a strategy to preserve their print sales and is an area [in which] we have the biggest demand for the provision of print titles.”

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